Parallel World Series: Stories that make the parallel world tangible — Interview with Daniela Paes Leão

@Interactive Storytelling Meetup #2 –11 February 2016

Interview by Klasien van de Zandschulp and Femke Deckers

Daniela Paes Leão (DPL) is a social and political engaged artist. At the Storytelling Meetup #2 she presented her project ‘Parallel Worlds Series’. One of the outcomes from her project is Museu da Crise, an initiative developed together with the art historian Merel Willemsen.

Daniela Paes Leão at Storytelling Meetup #2

Museu da Crise directs the human abilities of invention and imagination towards bridging the gap between the actual world and the incomplete, projected, desired possible world in order to create an authentic space. Daniela felt the urgency to visualize these possible worlds through a series of drawings to help make them more concrete, and by placing these drawings in the public domain, more tangible and attainable for the viewer. Daniela presented her project Parallel World Series at the Storytelling Meetup #2.
We met Daniela at her studio for an interview.

Can you tell us what your project Museu Da Crise is about, and what your motivation was to start this project?

DPL: “Museu Da Crise is a long term art project that is a museumification of the crisis in order to make it a concept of the past. It aims to do that through the liberation of the basic needs of the free market. My motivation to do this project comes from the political and economical situation that we are living in today. These two structures of our society are in my opinoin rotten to the bones. This is my way to reflect on that and to think about a new and better society.”

On your website we read that you developed an abstract and theoretical investigation of social issues. What kind of social issues do you (want to) address?

DPL: “In this moment in history the most important issues I want to address are the reorganisation of structural and social structures in society.

Drawing of Parallel World Series in the street of Lisbon, by Daniela Paes Leão

Can you tell us in what way your drawings represent the parallel world?

DPL: “My drawings make that parallel world tangible. By putting these drawings in our reality they evoke an action that is not taking place in our reality but takes place in a parallel world. We are touching that parallel world where we want to be in.”

“The drawings evoke an action that is not taking place in our reality but takes place in a parallel world.”
Drawing of Parallel World Series in the street of Lisbon, by Daniela Paes Leão

What are your future plans with Museu Da Crise (MDC) and the Parallel World Series?

DPL: “We are planning on bringing MDC this year to three different countries: Spain, Greece and Ireland. Which cities we don’t know yet, but probably the capitals, Madrid, Athens and Dublin. When I’m there I’ll be influenced by what I experience. This will give me the ideas for more drawings and to develop actions that could happen in that parallel world.

What I think is important to say is that we chose these countries (besides Portugal where we were last year) since they were nominated as the PIIGS countries [Due to the economic recession several members of the European Union became historically known as PIIGS. These states include Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain].

We want to bring these countries to the center of Europe and use the knowledge we developed with MDC. We want to be part of the answer on how to deal with the crises.”

“We are planning to bring our work to all the ‘nominated’ PIIGS countries”

What drawing is your personal favorite and why?

DPL: “I really do not have a personal favorite drawing. All of them are important and that is why I created them.”

Can you tell us about some of the stories of your drawings and the locations you chose?

DPL: “There is a story about a garden in the center of Lisbon. When the crisis started in 2008 people had smaller budgets to buy food. In the city there was this small rural area, that was always empty. People started to grow food in this area, create communal gardens. I think this is a verv logical thing to do because vegetables are an important part of your daily food and a lot of people cut their budget because they are expensive.

A very interesting and vivid community started to exist around this area. People started communicating more with each other and they started to learn from each other about growing food. The government probably saw a possibilty to make money and decided to destroy the garden. They divided the piece of land in small squares and started to rent this for 150 euros a month. Of course the people who used the land before, didn’t have that money.

For me it was important to tell this story further to other people. It’s an example on how our government is actually not on our side.”

How is this story part of the ‘parallel world’?

DPL: “The action that I put on the street is the action that can happen in the parallel world. In the case of this piece of land, the thing that was happening was in fact already a manifestation of that desirable parallel world where we want to be in.

It’s a world where people take action and where they produce what they need for living through self-organizing. They don’t wait for a government to solve their problems. They take matters in their own hands.

The drawings are a reminder of something that was there. I glued these drawings in front of the new garden. It’s an hommage. It works as a reminder to the governement of how it was: namely, an initiative of people.”

Drawing of Parallel World Series in the street of Lisbon, by Daniela Paes Leão

Did the government reply to this?

DPL: “The government totally ignored them. The media was involved. The story of the population was that they didn’t get any notification of the plan from the governement and they were not asked to leave, they just started to destroy the piece of land. The government replied that they tried to contact them but didn’t get an answer. There were arguements.

What is important for me, is how the situation was before. It was very good for the community but the governemt achievend the total opposite. It was a total liberal way of dealing with land. If you have the money to rent that land, you don’t have the need to grow your vegetables.”

Did you find inspiration by other artists, like graffiti, social or political engaged artists?

DPL: “Inspiration is a very interesting subject. It’s not like an object, that you very consciously collect. It’s more like a kind of wave. It’s very fluid and has different levels, dynamics and relations with the reality.

Of course I can say that, for instance, Banksy is a reference for me, but in the same way is Turner, or the Greek classical statues, philosophical works, economical views or even quantum physics theory. So I think that everything that makes part of my reality as an artist and as a person has an influence on my work.”

Daniela’s drawings at Storytelling Meetup #2